United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA)

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United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA)

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The United Nations Observation Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA) was established through United Nations Security Council Resolutions 772 and 894 adopted on 17 August 1992 and 14 January 1994, respectively, in order to observe and report on the transition from apartheid in South Africa to a non-racial democratic society. UNOMSA operated from September 1992 until 27 June 1994. South Africa’s first national election with universal adult suffrage was held on 27 April 1994.

On 16 July 1992, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 765 which condemned the escalating violence in South Africa. The Security Council invited Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to appoint a Special Representative to recommend measures which would assist in bringing an effective end to the violence and create conditions for negotiations leading towards a peaceful transition to a democratic, non-racial and united South Africa.

In a report dated 7 August, the Secretary-General informed the Security Council of the outcome of Special Representative Cyrus Vance’s mission to South Africa from 21 to 31 July 1992. With respect to the many requests made to the United Nations to dispatch monitors to South Africa, the Secretary-General concluded that the wisest course of action would be to strengthen and reinforce the mechanisms already established by the National Peace Accord, to which all parties had agreed.

South Africa’s National Peace Accord (NPA), signed on 14 September 1991, established a comprehensive framework to end violence and facilitate socio-economic development and reconstruction. This accord was agreed to by all major parties, organizations and groups of South Africa, and created an unprecedented country-wide network of structures to implement the agreement by addressing the behaviour of political parties, security forces, and issues related to justice and conflict management. The NPA built consensus by creating peace structures that were divided at the national, regional and local levels. These structures included the National Peace Committee (NPC) and the National Peace Secretariat (NPS).

The NPC included the Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence (Goldstone Commission) and the Police Board, and was comprised of representatives who signed the NPA in order to oversee the implementation of the agreement and to ensure compliance. The NPC established and administered regional and local structures including the Regional Peace Committees (RPCs) and the Local Peace Committees (LPCs). The RPCs and LPCs acted as mediators and were tasked with recording and monitoring violence and breaches of the NPA. The NPS established and administered regional and local structures in order to coordinate resolutions to disputes. The NPS was made up of members from South African political parties, a legal professional, and a member of the government’s Department of Justice. The NPS was broken down into Regional Peace Secretariats (RPS) which reported to the NPS.

On 9 September 1992, the Secretary-General approved the deployment of up to fifty United Nations Mission Observers (UNMOs). On 23 September, Angela King was appointed Chief of Mission (COM) and stationed at UNOMSA headquarters in Johannesburg. By the end of October, UNMOs were deployed in all eleven regions of South Africa and, by the end of November 1992, all fifty UNMOs were deployed. UNMOs were joined by international observers from the European Community (European Community Observer Mission in South Africa, ECOMSA); Commonwealth of Nations (Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa, COMSA); and the Organisation of African Unity (Organisation of African Unity Observer Mission in South Africa, OAU-OMSA).

UNMOs observed demonstrations, marches, and other forms of mass action; noted the conduct of all parties; and obtained information indicating the degree to which the parties’ actions were consistent with the principles of the NPA and the Goldstone Commission guidelines. Observers supplemented their field observations by establishing and maintaining informal contacts at all levels with existing government structures, political parties, and organizations, as well as with civic associations.
In November 1993, a number of constitutional principles and institutions were adopted by South Africa’s Multi-Party Negotiating Council, which would guide South Africa during its transition. They included the Transitional Executive Council (TEC), the Interim Constitution, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). The Interim Constitution stipulated that the future South Africa would be divided into nine provinces, each having a provincial legislature, government and executive council.

On 7 December, South Africa formally established the TEC. Working with existing legislative and executive Government structures at the national, regional and local levels, the main objective of TEC was to facilitate the transition to, and preparation for, implementation of a democratic system of government in South Africa. TEC requested UNOMSA’s assistance in electoral observation. This request was accepted by Security Council Resolution 894 (1994) as documented in the “Report of the Secretary-General on the question of South Africa” from 10 January 1994.

In December 1993, the Security Council approved the UN Secretary-General’s appointment of Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi as his Special Representative for South Africa. During this time, Angela King was appointed as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Africa, which she held concurrently with the position of COM. There were 100 UNMOs deployed by the end of December 1993.

Security Council Resolution 894 expanded the mandate and size of UNOMSA, creating the Peace Promotion Division (PPD) and the Electoral Division. UNOMSA’s mandate was expanded to include electoral observation and increased the number of observers, including UNMOs and additional international observers of the COMSA, OAU-OMSA and the European Union Election Unit in South Africa (EUNELSA). By April 1994, there were 3000 observers stationed throughout South Africa.

Security Council Resolution 894 caused a structural change to UNOMSA by abandoning the recognition of the eleven regions and adhering to a stipulation from the Interim Constitution that there would be nine provinces. The PPD was led by Director Ismat Steiner. The UNMOs were divided into teams throughout the nine provinces and expanded its network of contacts to include the monitoring branch of the IEC. In addition, the UNMOs continued to respond to the provisions of Security Council Resolution 772.

The Electoral Division was led by Director Reginald Austin with assistance from Deputy Director Michael Maley. Under the expanded mandate, the Electoral Division was charged with overseeing the actions of the IEC, which was responsible for organizing, administering and monitoring all aspects of the elections in a fair and free manner as required by the Independent Electoral Commission Act. UNOMSA’s electoral observers monitored the ability of South Africans of all races to campaign and vote freely and reviewed and analysed voter education efforts and the use of mass media. As established by the expanded mandate, UNOMSA reported all complaints and irregularities to the IEC for remedial action.

Upon the election of Nelson Mandela and the establishment of a democratic, non-racial and united Government of South Africa, UNOMSA was terminated on 27 June 1994, through Security Council Resolution 930 (1994).

Processing Archivists: Corinne O’Connor, Matthew Aull, Virginia Pastor


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